Catholics in Ireland are often accused of stone-throwing and hypocrisy just because they don’t accept the current immoral trends such as contraception, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, etc. “Who are you to judge others and impose your moral values on them?” is a familiar taunt. “Look at what members of the Church have done in the past. Ye’re no better than anyone else”, and so on and so forth… And, it’s true that, in and of ourselves, we are no better than anyone else. Our own repeated personal experience convinces us of that. A Catholic is just as capable of the lowest moral degradation as a non-Catholic.
The difference between a Catholic and a non-Catholic is that, when the Catholic sins, he knows how to get back on track again. Imagine two hikers who wander off the road to their destination; one has a map and a compass, and the other doesn’t. True, they have both got lost. However, the one with the map and the compass has the means to get back on the right road; the other doesn’t. Now, apply this image to a Catholic and a non-Catholic: they can both commit sin. But, the Catholic clearly knows where he has gone wrong, and what he has to do to change. The non-Catholic’s knowledge of what he has done wrong is, at best, limited; his knowledge of what he has to do to change is even more so.
Now, if the hiker with the map and compass points out to his non-Catholic counterpart that he has strayed off the right path (and shows him the way back to the right one), would he be called “judgmental” or “hypocritical”? After all, who is he to lecture to someone else about being lost, when he has got lost himself?!… Obviously, this is absurd…and so is the accusation that Catholics in Ireland are hypocritical and judgmental simply because they try to call their fellow-countrymen back from the brink of moral collapse.
Now, the Catholic does not only have a map and a compass (in the form of the constant Teaching of the Church given to Her by Christ). He also has the powerful assistance of prayer and the Sacraments, which aid him in overcoming that wounded human nature which often inclines him to ignore the directions given by his map and compass and to follow everyone else over the edge of the moral cliff.
But, one of the chief means of assistance available to Irish Catholics in their quest for heaven since the time of Saint Patrick has been devotion to Mary – the Mother of God, Mother of Graces, and Mother of each Irishman and woman. Hardly surprising, as Our Lady told Lucia of Fatima: “I will be your refuge, and the path that leads you to heaven”. Each one of us Irish Catholics should be itching to share this path to heaven with our fellow countrymen.
To inspire us in our own devotion to this great Mother, and to spur us on to make it known around us, who better to go to than the Italian, Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri, founder of the Redemptorist Order. The Redemptorists were once much loved in Ireland for their zealous preaching of Missions in parishes the length and breadth of the country. Saint Alphonsus wrote an amazing book, called The Glories of Mary. Following is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of that book, where the Saint shows beautifully how Our Lady is, as the Salve Regina says, “our hope”:
St. Basil encourages sinners, saying: “Oh sinner, be not timid, but in all thy necessities flee to Mary, invoke her aid, and thou wilt always find her ready to assist thee, for it is the Divine Will that she should aid all men in all their necessities! This Mother of Mercy has such a desire to save the most abandoned sinners, that she even goes to seek them ; and if they have recourse to her, she will surely find a method of rendering them dear to God.
Isaac, desiring to eat the flesh of some venison, promised to give his benediction in exchange for it to Esau; but Rebecca wishing that her other son Jacob should receive this benediction, ordered him to bring her two kids, for she would prepare the food that Isaac loved. ‘Go thy way to the flock, bring me two kids’. St. Antoninus says that Rebecca was a figure of Mary, who says to the angels: ‘Bring me sinners (meant by ‘kids’), that I may prepare them in such a manner (by obtaining for them sorrow and good resolutions) as to render them dear and acceptable to my Lord’. The Abbot Francone, pursuing the same thought, says, that Mary so well understands Low to prepare these kids, that they not only equal, but sometimes even surpass the flavour of venison.”
The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget ‘that no sinner in the world is so great an enemy to God, that if he has recourse to her and invokes her aid, does not return to God and is not restored to his favour. And the same St. Bridget one day heard Jesus Christ saying to his mother, that she could obtain the divine favour even for Lucifer, if he would humble himself so far as to ask her help. That proud spirit would never stoop to implore the protection of Mary, but if such a thing could happen, Mary would take pity upon him, and the power of her prayers would obtain from God his pardon and salvation. But what cannot happen to the devil may well happen to sinners who seek the help of this Mother of Mercy.
And, in the words of the old Irish hymn:
A Mhuire na ngrás, a Mháthair Mhic Dé, go gcuire tú ar mo leas mé. Go sabhála tú mé ar gach uile olc, go sabhála tú mé idir anam is chorp.
O Mary of Graces and Mother of God, may I tread in the paths that the righteous have trod.
And mayest thou save me from evil’s control, and mayest thou save me in body and soul.
Go sabhála tú mé ar muir is ar tír, go sabhála tú mé ar lic na bpian. Gárda na n-aingeal os mo chionn, Dia romham agus Dia liom.
And mayest thou save me by land and by sea, and mayest thou save me from tortures to be
May the guard of the Angels around me abide, may God be before me and God at my side.